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Unauthorized livestreams of sports events: Parliamentary committee votes for radical measures and against fundamental digital rights

Today, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee adopted a call to crack down on unauthorised live streams of sports events (e.g. football games). The draft resolution calls for obliging providers to remove manifestly illegal streams within 30 minutes after being notified. “Trusted flaggers” could have streams taken down even where it is unclear whether they are legal or not, without a court injunction. The text also advocates “blocking injunctions” targeted at Internet Service Providers (ISP), including “dynamic” blocking injunctions that would allow the industry to add new blocking targets without judicial review.[1]

“The draft resolution is a threat to our fundamental digital rights and could just as well have been written by industry lobbyists.”, comments MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party). “It is completely at odds with the European Parliament’s position on the Digital Services Act which is sufficient to deal with illegal content. A 30 minute delay would be even shorter than what will be required for taking down terrorist content, and much too short outside business hours, especially for small and non-commercial providers. Allowing private ‘flaggers’ with vested interests to have content removed without an assessment by an independent judicial authority would result in the over-blocking of legal content.“

Breyer elaborates: „And requiring ISPs to block access is too easy to circumvent for users by simply changing DNS servers. Blocking access to an entire IP address also results in massive collateral damage to freedom of information. All in all, the profit-driven quest for ever more draconian measures ignores the obvious: the best way of reducing illegal streaming is to ensure that there is universal and affordable legal access to sport event broadcasts, both subscription-based and pay-per-view.”

With a majority of 18 votes (6 against, no abstentions), the text was adopted. Breyer’s group Greens/EFA opposed the text.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled IP blocking illegal only last year, arguing that the wholesale blocking of access to an entire website was an extreme measure comparable to banning a newspaper or television station (CASE OF VLADIMIR KHARITONOV v. RUSSIA).

[1] Text of the Amendments

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